We've wanted to nab this Tuakana for quite some time so this week we're super-duper stoked to welcome Roy Clare to our Tusk whanau. When I (Nina) started working at Auckland Museum in October last year, Roy had just announced his departure. It felt like a loss for our sector but the legacy he left continues to this day. I feel like I stepped into a healthy workplace. One that is complicated yes, but one that feels like it's heading in the right direction. I mean, as a Navy guy (that's the official term) Roy is used to being at the helm of a machine with lots of moving parts. In big organisations its hard to get these parts in alignment but coming into this place I remember thinking that having a Director who was visible, present, accessible and accountable was a hugely important step on the journey. So kia ora Roy! Your legacy is great. Thank you for taking the time to craft your thoughts and reflections - it is so appreciated and valued.
Born in London; lives in Essex; married, three children, two grandchildren.
Served frontline in the Royal Navy, Junior Seaman to Rear Admiral: commands at sea included a minehunter, destroyers and the aircraft carrier HMS Invincible.
Over past twenty years: Director National Maritime Museum, Greenwich; Chief Executive Museums, Libraries and Archives Council; Director Auckland War Memorial Museum.
Currently, enjoying a maritime history research sabbatical around UK coastline.
Made CBE in 2007 ‘for services to museums’.
In five words, describe your role in the sector.
Museum leader, strategic change thinker
What is it about the sector that you love?
My career has spanned science and the arts, though the distinctions are, to my mind, artificial.
A favourite period is the 18th century - the ’age of wonder’. In a sense reflecting the beneficial impact of science on the ‘romantic generation’, I have enjoyed a life-long appreciation of history, yet I specialised in physics, specifically microwave communications.
My passionate belief is that all forms of material culture - whether 2D, 3D or virtual - are ‘owned’ by the public, a legacy for those to come. These resources have the potential to nourish, enlighten, inform, inspire, engage, amuse and provoke.
At their best, museums have the capacities to be generous, highly-effective agents for the related multilateral exchanges, ‘inspiring learning for all’; sharing and harvesting; not knowing all the answers or taking sides, being suspicious of claims of “truth” but providing physical, digital and intellectual space for making connections, searching for perspectives and sourcing, matching and exchanging knowledge.
For the past two decades I have felt privileged to work as a leader among so many wonderfully talented people in the UK and in Aotearoa who've shared my strategic vision that institutions must work with humility and ‘beyond their walls’; and who have backed my commitment to adding public value through creativity, innovation, outreach and co-development.
I sometimes think of museums as eggs: seemingly magical, beautifully formed; attractively shaped; the goodness is inside; if warmed … surprises hatch and new life emerges; if the recipe is right … delicious; if maltreated … fragile, frangible and hard to reassemble.
What have been some challenges in your career?
As ‘social businesses’ museums operate in a complex environment with multiple capitals and at least four bottom-lines (financial, social, cultural and environmental).
A major challenge has been learning to advocate strategically and to interpret this complexity for third-parties, so as to avoid being trapped and diminished by one-dimensional thinking.
Funding agencies, for example, often favour cost-based assessment, whereas rounded, longitudinal appraisals focus on outcomes. The latter can reveal the true added-value created for the public - future funding depends on all of us being the best possible advocates in terms of results and outcomes.
The collections and the capacities of staff and volunteers are fundamental assets - positive resources to be developed, not negative costs to be borne.
We must put weight behind the habit of decision-making based on facts and evidence; forge partnerships with those who would be allies over time.
Through many exchanges and debates, year on year, it has been vital to stay true to principles - avoiding the pitfall memorably phrased by Groucho Marx: “if you don't like my principles, I have others”!
Above all, I have tried to uphold the highest standards of leadership. In this, I have been conscious that leadership occurs at every level within organisations; therefore I recognise that so-called ‘key leaders’ don't drive or order, they empower.
The most significant factors in leadership are the stimulation of confidence, the building up of human capacity and the creation of a context for respectful working relationships.
In turn, teams can apply risk-management that recognises the merits of being open to trying new things; of sometimes failing, but never blaming.
Individuals at every level share the obligation to act within a values-culture that rewards energy, intelligence, lateral-thinking, vision, integrity and judgement; and one that drives for the best products, not simply the best processes.
What challenges can you see moving forward?
Collections are fundamental. However, to my mind, museums collections can only remain sustainable if the organisations are prepared to tackle strategic issues in imaginative ways.
The development of collections is a long-term responsibility which pre-supposes that acquisitions are part of a life cycle that includes preservation and conservation and admits the feasibility - indeed necessity - of dispersal and disposal ….. and even - in the right conditions - sale.
The digital manifestation of collections aids the distribution and compilation of knowledge. Done the right way, virtual records dramatically extend the reach of collections, but they don't replace the necessity for enabling people to interact with collections physically and intellectually.
Commitment to the principles and practices of a collections development life cycle is necessary right across the sector: from governance, through the executive, to those who prescribe ethics and foster professional standards; there's much more to be done.
The grand-strategic objective was once to keep stuff; now, it's to share. And to do so openly, democratically and with a genuine determination to uphold diversity, celebrate difference, expand appeal and heal divisions caused by past mistakes.
Organisations have a clear responsibility to serve all peoples; and therefore to overcome the barriers and damaging legacies of oppression, misappropriation, disrespect and indifference. Regardless of political context and supposedly popular opinion, museums have an ethical and professional obligation to do the right thing.
Participation and co-development are now popular opportunities and expected features of displays and programmes. Partnerships are desirable and now more common with tertiary institutions, community groups and peoples.
Curatorial capabilities (strictly, the skills of ‘keepers’) were once prized in their own right, above all others, but contemporary circumstances call for a much wider span of capabilities - those of ‘sharers’.
The skills of listening, hearing, learning, interpretation, narration, engagement and presentation have gained ascendency. In parallel, communities, peoples and the public at large have rightly become ever more involved; there's much more to be done.
What do you think people in the early stages of their careers can offer the sector?
Fresh thinking and above all, open-mindedness to new ideas; coupled with public-spiritedness and a likely appetite for extending the reach of collections.
A willingness to embrace not merely the existing audiences, but to reach out and imagine the possibilities of engaging those historically thought ‘hard to reach’, for which often read those ‘alienated’ by museums’ customary approaches.
It should go without saying that emerging professionals bring their intellect, their educated minds, digital literacy, technical competence and a thirst for cultivating and sharing knowledge.
Prized are their instincts for innovation; their enthusiasm to embrace positive, respectful values and to bridge social and cultural difference.
From the get-go, everyone in the sector has an obligation to develop skills of advocacy; to really understand the impact of multiple capitals; to focus on outcomes; to become fundraisers and agents for change; to build up their own personal capacities.
In sum, to demonstrate a pro-active willingness to be leaders from within. The sector’s future depends on us all working together - the future is not someone else's business.
What is your spirit animal?
My spirit animal is one that can see when others cannot; patiently capable of observing carefully and choosing the best times to act; balanced, flexible and agile, able to move quickly; deeply at ease with self, confident in own space, but able to enhance social connections (on certain terms); capable of great insight and warmth, yet disconcertingly independent; adventurous, inquisitive, courageous (some think rash); annoyingly, usually survives risks - lands on feet, at least the first nine times.
Yes, the cat - perhaps a good fit for a Libran, too?